The disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid.
Jesus had been teaching about who can be saved and enter the kingdom of heaven, and his disciples were astonished, amazed. They were going to be richly rewarded for giving up everything to follow him (see Mark 10:24-31)! But other people who were following along were afraid. They were probably wondering, “What exactly does this mean?”
Then Jesus reminded his disciples about what would happen to him when he got to Jerusalem: betrayal, mockery, suffering, death, and resurrection. You’d think they would pause and wonder about all that, especially if it might mean they could be arrested too.
But instead, James and John raised a surprising question. They asked if they could have first and second place among Jesus’ followers in his kingdom. It seems they were fully not getting it; they basically ignored the fact that Jesus was going to suffer and die when he got to Jerusalem.
Maybe they just didn’t want to face the truth. It can be difficult to deal with the realities of suffering. We can be inclined to try to cut corners, aiming to avoid the hard parts to get to the finish line. But it is better to deal with things like surgeries, repairs, grief, dying to self, and repentance than to deny that these things are needed.
Jesus will take us where we need to go. So we need not be afraid; he goes there with us.
Jesus, help me to trust that following where you lead is also a place where you will never leave me. “Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, help me stand.” Amen.